To focus voters—and the all-Democratic Wake County Board of Commissioners—on how school funding might affect their reelection bids next year, Raleigh pollster Dean Debnam released a survey Monday that says 82 percent of likely Democratic primary voters think commissioners should have fully funded the Wake school board's budget request, which they did not.
Debnam owns the Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling as well other business interests. He was also the instigator of the infamous "DrunkTown" ad campaign ahead of Raleigh's 2015 municipal elections.
"I think that perhaps with decisions that are still being made at the school board level and the county commission level, more information on what's on the mind of Democratic primary voters might be useful as they decide how to fund schools," says PPP spokesman Russ Swindell. "I think that elections are kind of always on the mind of elected officials."
In June, the Board of Commissioners members voted to provide $21 million in new funding for the 160,000-student public schools system, well below what the school board asked for. In funding the system at $430.9 million, commissioners turned down, among other items, an estimated $10 million for counselors for troubled students. "Also 85% of voters think the school board's request for funding for staff counselors for Wake County school children should have been fully funded," Debnam says in a statement.
The poll also surveyed how well the five commissioners who voted to give the school system less than it requested would fare against a hypothetical female candidate who would have voted for full funding. Despite the poll's gender specificity, Debnam says he was not thinking of a specific candidate.
"Right now there's only one woman county commissioner, despite women making up a majority of voters in the county," Debnam's statement says. "It seems the best way for the women on the school board to get the schools funded might be to run against the male county commissioners."
The poll showed all the male commissioners who voted against increased school funding running behind the hypothetical woman by more than fifty percentage points.